Alumni Spotlight: Noam Szoke

Noam Szoke is a 51 year old educator from San Francisco. He has lived in Israel, Boston, Colorado, and the San Francisco Bay Area. He has taught Elementary and Middle School and worked as a Teacher Mentor and Trainer. He has a Masters Degree in Mathematics Education.

thai school children

Morning: My typical weekday morning here starts at dawn. I wake with the sun and the roosters. My house is lovely and cool in the morning. I usually work on lesson planning in the morning, when I am fresh and it's not hot. I usually exercise in the morning as well, then shower and jump on my bike with my materials in a bag on the bike rack and my guitar strapped to my shoulders. I teach at two different schools, both very small.

My schedule is different every day. I teach kids from 4 years old up to 12. The little ones are a lot of fun. They imitate everything I do. We sing and do chants. I read to them and they learn the alphabet, how to write their names, and some simple vocabulary. As they progress through the grades, the activities get more challenging. I read and sing with the kids at all levels. The older kids can read and write but I focus on listening and understanding, since I am almost their only model for that.

Afternoon: Lunch at school is one of the main times I socialize with Thais. The teachers at both my schools are friendly and try to include me in their conversations. A few of them speak a little English, but mostly I am learning Thai and Isan (Lao.) I teach another 2 or 3 hours after lunch.

My work week is between 20 and 25 hours of teaching. At the end of the day kids usually come and hang out with me in my classroom, asking me questions, playing, and talking. After I get home I usually rest for a while, bathe, and let the heat of the day pass.

thailand fields

Evening: In the evening I either go for a run or go to the market. I cook almost all my own meals at home. The produce and fruit in Thailand is AMAZING and I've learned to cook many new vegetables here. I have a very fast DSL connection at my house, although I am out in the country, in the rice farming part of Northeast Thailand (Isan.) In the evening I write, blog, do correspondence with friends and family, play music, and read. I go to sleep early on most nights, since I wake up so early! The sunsets here are gorgeous, and I often take a walk as night approaches.

Highlights: I have lived here for a year, so there have been many many highlights. They fall into roughly 4 categories: 1) Teaching: I love teaching here. The kids are quite sweet and eager to learn English. Their enthusiasm and energy can be draining but it is usually invigorating for me.

2) Thailand!: I have enjoyed the food, the people, and the culture here very much. I've seen some amazing sights, had wonderful connections with students and teachers, and enjoyed eating every day!

3) Travel - the WorldTeach program includes a 2 month vacation during which I traveled all over Thailand and Laos. This is a beautiful and fascinating part of the world and travel within the area is really really cheap.

4) Last but NOT least has been the friendships I have made with other WorldTeach volunteers. Since we came as a group we have experienced this year together. I don't live very near to any of them but I see some of them almost every weekend and we travel together. Their camaraderie and support have made this year FANTASTIC!